Saturday, October 8, 2011

Aftermath, Part 2

Things in my body still hurt. There’s an internal burning I assume will go away and an emotional hangover requiring attention.  My throat feels tight and swallowing is difficult. I am told this is a normal follow-up to having a tube inserted to deliver the necessary anesthetic, but it’s an unpleasant feeling and I spent the better part of the morning verging on nausea. I hurt all over, and a friend who has undergone many procedures tells me having surgery is like being involved in a car accident. That’s the physical part. This makes sense; I’ve always liked the term “insult to the body,” which is a quasi-medical way of describing what cutting deep into living tissue—cancerous or otherwise—actually is.

But hello? What is this, guilt? Oh my, yes, Emotionally, for reasons truly far beyond my comprehension, there is a sense of shame though I have no idea what it is I am supposed to be ashamed of. Perhaps, deep down, I feel I’ve done something to deserve the illness. This is disturbing; it’s way too Catholic. If I somehow have earned this, what of my father, mother and sister, all three cancer victims? Did they too somehow commit a horrendous sin against, well, against what? This is positively strange, the remnants of a religion I thought I had shed decades ago in favor of a kinder, more Eastern philosophy. If not shame or guilt, why, then, am I so loathe to discuss this with others? Why the embarrassment of revealing that, yes, some of my cells just went bananas, replicating badly at a godawful rate, and leading to an intervention of sorts. 

Here’s a fact. My emotions are running amok. One moment, I will cry for no reason other than the tears are there. Minutes later, I will be ready to discuss my brief hospital experience with scalding humor and razor wit. Then back to tears, to that breathless, hiccupping feeling I remember from being a kid when things went really, really wrong and some sort of disaster was sure to follow.

There’s been a change of sorts in my thinking, a tectonic shift that has pushed basic beliefs just far enough off-center to be troubling. Or perhaps ‘troubling’ is not the correct word; perhaps I need to find a term that illustrates that pale grey area found between disquieting and upsetting. Ah, here it is: I am not the same person I was 10 days ago. This slight brush with mortality, the French would call it an effleurage, has left me changed. I am certain of this, though if asked how I am changed, I’d find it impossible to explain, either to myself or to others.  

Oh crap. This is making my head hurt.

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